REVIEW – Biddy Ronelle & Tommy Taylor – Happy Christmas

Biddy Ronelle & Tommy Taylor - Happy Christmas

 

Described as ‘the Christmas duet you never knew you needed,’ Happy Christmas is the rock ballad that encapsulates the mood of 2020. Born from an idea planted by the BCMA marketing team, country rockstars Biddy Ronelle and Tommy Taylor join forces this holiday season to deliver a Christmas release that packs a punch. The song was co-written by Ronelle and Taylor and shares their thoughts about what Christmas might look like this year. Ronelle explains,

Normally I’d be beginning the busiest gig season of the year through to January 1st… As you can imagine my gigging diary is pretty empty this time around.

 

Happy Christmas opens with Biddy and a simple piano for the first verse, before kicking up a notch. The wailing guitars hit like a truck, along with Taylor’s rich, raw voice. I’ve described Tommy Taylor before as having a voice that could blow the roof off a stadium, and even as he restrains it here, the power is evident.  Biddy and Tommy switch off, before joining forces in a stunning display of power and grace. The song highlights the importance of music and how it brings people together – not just on an individual level but on a global scale.  It’s full of guitar shreds, bells, big voices and infectious laughter to celebrate the season of joy.

 

HAPPY CHRISTMAS features Will Watson on guitar, Nic Slack on keys and production by Stu Magru. It’s available to stream and download everywhere from 11th December. Pre-save it here. Follow Tommy on FacebookTwitter & Instagram or visit his website. Follow Biddy on FacebookInstagram and Twitter, or visit her website.

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Weekly Playlist #34: better now you’re gone

Weekly Playlist #34: better now you're gone

When I first started to put this playlist together, I wanted to create something that said more than “I’m better without you.” I wanted a playlist that said “I’m better without you than I ever was with you.” I wanted it to say “I’m glad you’re gone, because now I can be me.”

 

To that end, let’s get straight into some highlights.

 

Miss Me More is an obvious highlight this week. It’s a song about finding yourself after an oppressive relationship, about being able to wear that lipstick and listen to that music again, because no one can tell you not to. In many ways, it’s the flagship song of the playlist – and if you ever needed a pick-me-up, a song to dance around in your underwear to – let this be it.

 

Leaving Looks Good On You is highlight #2 this week. This song has some absolutely beautiful guitar stabs and an absolute truck-load of sass. This is a boy, bye song if ever I heard one, and I love it.

 

Finally, It Didn’t is every bit as big, bold and brash as kicking that ex to the curb should be. I love the celebratory horns and Merlo’s huge voice. This isn’t a song about heartbreak, but about losing the heartbreak and falling in love with yourself again.

 

Find the full playlist here.

 

 

Well, we’re one more playlist deep into the year – fancy sharing your highlights with me? Find me on any of our socials and let me know your faves!

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REVIEW – Caitlin Mae – Christmas Kiss

Caitlin Mae - Christmas Kiss

I want people to hear it and get up and dance like nobody’s watching.

 

Christmas Kiss is the brand new single by upcoming teenage artist Caitlin Mae. It follows her debut A Candle for Christmas, which reached #5 in the UK Country iTunes Chart. Already well-known in her home town of Caerphilly, she is quickly gaining popularity and recognition further afield. Her second single, Christmas Kiss, outlines the intense feelings of falling for a crush and longing for a date. Talking of the single, Caitlin says:

 

I wrote this song towards the end of the Summer 2020 lockdown in the hope of raising some spirits after the year we’ve all had. I know a lot of people have been left feeling very downhearted and this song is to remind everyone of the joys of Christmas. So find that special someone and make this year unforgettable for all the right reasons!

 

If A Candle was the light, Christmas Kiss is the dark side to this dual holiday offering. Christmas Kiss is much edgier than A Candle For Christmas. It opens with distorted, wailing guitars to drive home the rock influence, and the uptempo beat allows Caitlin to deliver on her promises of a powerful, energising vocal. It’s perfect for a holiday dance party.

 

CHRISTMAS KISS is available to stream and download from 4th December. Pre-save it here. Follow Caitlin on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.

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REVIEW – Jack Byron – The Hill

Jack Byron - The Hill

Early December sees the release of The Hill by Chicago native Jack Byron. The Hill was produced by Todd Loizzo, son of the late Gary Loizzo. Loizzo also produced Byron’s debut album, Two Travelers, released in January 2020.

 

The Hill is a lovely, mellow Americana track underpinned by bright acoustic guitar and Byron’s soulful vocal delivery. This song sounds like a crisp, bright morning, taking the time and finding a space to breathe.  It’s calming and peaceful. The strings in the second half are at first melancholic, then uplifting. It’s a song close to Byron’s heart; he explains:

 

It’s a coming of age song, completed during the current pandemic. The harmonies on the song are sung by the late Gary Loizzo, a great friend and musical mentor (…) This song holds a special place in my heart due to the song being written during a period of time between me finding my own voice as a songwriter, Gary’s passing from pancreatic cancer, the sudden passing of another musician friend, Eric Ortiz, earlier this year, as well as the life-altering Covid-19 pandemic.

 

Byron has appeared on radio in both Illinois and Wisconsin and has played songwriter showcases at Chicago favourites including the Elbo Room, Uncommon Ground and House of Blues. He has also made an appearance on Showcase at the Homeplace, in Nashville, TN.

 

THE HILL is available to stream and download from 4th December. Follow Jack on Facebook and Instagram.

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REVIEW – Together Country – I Won’t Forget To Miss You

Together Country - I Won't Forget To Miss You

Together Country – a collection of unsigned artists, led by a collaboration between Scarlet River Management and Country Chat with Dom, have announced their heartfelt Christmas release.  I Won’t Forget To Miss You, released on 27th November, is an original single, written by Tyler Spicer.  All proceeds from the release are being donated to the MIND mental health charity.

 

In the year that no one saw coming, record numbers of people have lost their jobs, lost friends, family members and loved ones, and seen their mental health take a beating like never before.  Dom, founder of Country Chat says,

“Being in lockdown, not being able to see the ones I love, and having to quit my job due to the pandemic, this year has had a huge toll on my mental health which I know is affecting many others throughout the world. I dreamed of creating a single of a few artists that I’ve got to know very well throughout this period of time and with the immense help of Rachel and Tyler, a dream is now a reality.”

 

Rachel, founder of Scarlet River Management says,

“This year has been an incredibly difficult year in many respects for me. I have had a lot of personal challenges as well as changes to my work situation. However, it has also been a time to reflect and I have made new friendships and relationships with people that are now an integral part of my life.”

 

I Won’t Forget To Miss You is a beautiful ballad showcasing the heartfelt lyrics of Tyler Spicer, the vocals of Daniel Borge, Kyle Elliott, Bob Fitzgerald, Brittany McLamb, Emma Moore, Georgia Nevada, Emilia Quinn and Charlotte Young, and the heart, soul and passion of everyone involved.  A mammoth task to coordinate, with artists contributing from all over the world, Sellick and Crooke have done a stunning job of bringing a little light and togetherness into a dark, lonely holiday season.  Written by Spicer, the song encapsulates the global and universal sentiments that we’ve all felt during this pandemic: those of missing family, those of separation from loved ones, and those of trying to find a sense of normality in the face of mass change. He explains,

I hope this single can bring together our collective experience for both positive, active change, and to heal and unify us all, wherever we are, no matter how far apart, this Christmas.

 

I WON’T FORGET TO MISS YOU is available for pre-order now ahead of release on 27th November. Follow Scarlet River Management, Country Chat and songwriter Tyler Spicer, as well as artists Daniel Borge, Kyle Elliott, Bob Fitzgerald, Brittany McLamb, Emma Moore, Georgia Nevada, Emilia Quinn & Charlotte Young.

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REVIEW – Becky Lawrence – It’s Christmas

Becky Lawrence - It's Christmas

Topping off her first year in the charts, Wiltshire-based artist Becky Lawrence – who hails from the Isle of Man – has announced her final release of the year.  IT’S CHRISTMAS, coming on 27th November, is intended to be a feel-good reminder that, despite the chaos of this year, love remains abundant. The song was co-written by Becky and her mum, Julia Skillan, making it a particularly special offering at a time of year usually associated with family and togetherness.

 

The single caps off Becky’s most successful year yet, which has seen her achieve an artist of the year nomination in the UK Country Music Awards, international radio play, a #1 chart position for her summer single ‘You Say’ and a milestone birthday, among other accolades.

 

It’s Christmas is pure, unadulterated bubblegum fun for the holidays.  It’s full of images of warm fires and cold noses, snowstorms and hot toddies and all the togetherness we’ve been missing this year.  It has a little bit of jingle bells, some actual jingle bells, and a star-studded choir of friends to make you feel warm and fuzzy inside.  The song features vocals from Tommy Atkins, Cheriebaby, Joey Clarkson, Shannon Hynes, Georgia Nevada, Louise Parker, Emilia Quinn, Stuart Rolfe, Jessica Taylor, and Emma Webb, in addition to Lawrence and Skillan, and the result is an infectious, sing-out-loud soundtrack for the holidays. I can’t wait to blast this while I decorate my Christmas tree!

 

 

IT’S CHRISTMAS is available to stream and download from 27th November. Pre-save here. Follow Becky on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and subscribe to her Youtube channel.

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Weekly Playlist #33: girls who rock

Weekly Playlist #33: girls who rock
Girls Who Rock: Emilia Quinn @ Unsigned, Unleashed August 2020

 

I tried something a little bit different this week and posted the poll on Twitter instead of the blog. It seemed to work pretty well – at least, we had an overwhelming win for girls who rock – so without further ado, let’s have a playlist!

 

This playlist was inspired by my first highlight, Outlaw.  This song made its way into my heart the first time I heard it. Emilia Quinn has been one of my favourite songwriters this year. She has such a unique storytelling style and unmatched vocal power.  Her stage presence is absolutely phenomenal, too, even over a live stream – if you haven’t caught one of her online gigs yet, I highly recommend that you do!

 

Highlight #2 has to be Homebody. I’ve been listening to Teagan Stewart on repeat since she released Taste Of My Heartbreak.  The title track is still my favourite, but the power and range of Stewart’s vocals in Homebody blew me away. I find myself air-drumming on my dashboard every time I drive around listening to this. It’s infectious.

 

Let’s go back to that conversation about stage presence for my third highlight, and talk about Lauren Jenkins. Payday is my final highlight this week. Jenkins absolutely blew me away when I saw her open for Brett Eldredge in February. She stood alone on stage with just a guitar and still matched the power, intensity and emotion of her full-band album recordings with each song. She’s another one who has been absolutely killing it with online performances throughout the various lockdowns and they’re definitely worth tuning in to.

Find the full playlist here.

 

One more down! These ladies will see you though the last week of November, for sure. Let me know your highlights, as always – and don’t forget to suggest your own playlist themes here!

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REVIEW – Jess and the Bandits – White Christmas In Houston

Jess and the Bandits - White Christmas In Houston

 

Ahead of a full album release on 1st December, Jess and the Bandits have released an original holiday song, White Christmas in Houston.  Frontwoman and Texas native Jessica Clemmons formed her Bandits in 2012. With her big voice and warm personality, she felt an instant connection with the four Brits who made up her band and shared her love for authentic country music.

 

White Christmas In Houston opens with a sombre piano – and then it kicks off.  All of a sudden, the melancholy of the season is replaced with a big honky-tonk band and Clemmons’ warm, powerful voice.  It feels very rock n’ roll in the truest, most traditional sense.  This is certainly a dancing-around-the-Christmas-tree song, as Clemmons sings about praying and pleading for a snow-white Christmas in her native Texas. It’s a lovely look at the difference in culture between Clemmons and her Bandits, the rest of whom are British.

 

While she would typically record in Nashville or London, Clemmons worked with a team of people in Houston for this album. Where better to give these songs her own country twist than in her home state?!  She explains, “I absolutely love Christmas. I am a Christian so this record has a special meaning to me. But, it feels like a time of year where you can’t help but be happy. People seem friendlier. Generally the best of who we are comes out during the Christmas season.” 

 

WHITE CHRISTMAS IN HOUSTON is available now (stream here) ahead of a full festive album release on 1st December. Follow Jess and the Bandits on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

 

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REVIEW – Rob Crampton – Until The Wheels Stop Turning

Rob Crampton - Until The Wheels Stop Turning

Manchester-based Rob Crampton has announced the release of Until The Wheels Stop Turning on 18th November 2020. With a style often likened to songwriters like Springsteen and Dylan, Crampton writes hard-hitting lyrics and delivers them with soul.

 

 

Until The Wheels Stop Turning is an Americana-inspired anthem inspired by Crampton’s time as a road racing cyclist in Belgium.  It tells the story of transition – in this case, Crampton’s focus and passion transitioning from cycling to music and songwriting. It’s ripe for a singalong and you can just imagine a room full of people singing this back at Crampton as he bares his soul on stage.  The track opens with a stunning slide guitar riff which gives the song an instant Nashville vibe.  The chorus builds throughout, relying on Crampton’s soulful vocal delivery and subtle, simple lead guitar lines to anchor the melody. This is a strong track – mellow, melodic, soulful and even a little melancholic, but it’s all heart.

 

Rob Crampton is a staple on the Manchester live music circuit and has been releasing music since 2019.

 

UNTIL THE WHEELS STOP TURNING will be available everywhere from 18th November. Pre-save it here. Follow Rob on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter.

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REVIEW – Clayton Smalley – Dirt Road Therapy (EP)

Clayton Smalley - Dirt Road Therapy EP

 

Utah-based country music artist Clayton Smalley is set to release his sophomore EP on 20th November 2020.  The six-song collection, Dirt Road Therapy, features four songs co-written with Grammy-nominated Nashville songwriter Steve Dean. Dean boasts six #1 Billboard country hits including the most played song on Country Radio in 2007, Rodney Atkins’ Watching You.

 

“It is especially awesome to see the songs we wrote over a six-month span of Monday nights transformed into killer sounding records,” says Dean about the collaboration.

 

The EP opens with Two Lane Time Machine. The song has a vintage Eagles vibe, showcasing some tight harmonies and classic guitar work with a driving melody and fantastic pace.

 

Modern Day Merle is a nod to new country artists continuing the tradition of iconic artists like Merle Haggard. It’s full of traditional sounds. From the fiddles to the rich, bold lyrical delivery, this is a song that could have fit quite comfortably on country radio yesterday or 40 years ago.

 

Phoenix Rise brings about a change of pace. It’s a reflective, introspective ballad with haunting steel guitar and a rousing, heartfelt melody that wouldn’t be out of place on CMT’s Nashville.

 

The title track, Dirt Road Therapy, is a contemporary summer night tune reminiscent of Luke Bryan’s Crash My Party album.  It’s the most contemporary-sounding track of the bunch, but still retains Smalley’s signature traditional twist and smooth vocals.

 

Rounding out the project is the self-described party song of the EP, I Never Let A Good Time Get Away, and the previously released ballad Watch Me Fall. The former has an infectious melody and retro guitar licks, whilst the latter is another gut-wrenching classic in the making.

 

“When I turn on the radio I want to hear the country music I grew up listening to, the music that molded me when I was a kid.  Now I want to make that same country music that is a part of who I am now as a man and a musician. I feel like this EP is a step in that direction.”

 

This EP is a live look-in at Clayton Smalley as an artist. As a whole, the six-song project offers personal lyrics, infectious melodies and classic guitars. It presents the captivating sound we’ve come to know and love of country music, and offers everything a country music fan could want.

 

 

DIRT ROAD THERAPY is currently available for pre-order on iTunes with an instant-gratis track of TWO LANE TIME MACHINE.  Visit Clayton’s website or follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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